Illinois Needs More Revenue NOW!!

Because the Governor and the legislature cannot agree, Illinois is now completing its sixth month without a budget.  In order to ensure minimally adequate mental health services, it is important for the legislature to pass a budget promptly.  However, that budget must include an increase in tax revenue in order to maintain essential government services, including mental health services.  Here is why:

  • Several years ago, Illinois was faced with the prospect of a budget which would include a serious deficit.  In addition to being bad public policy, the Illinois Constitution prohibits the enactment of a budget which is not balanced
  • In response, Illinois increased the personal and corporate income tax rate.  At the time of this increase, everyone knew that the increase was too small and that the increase needed to be in place indefinitely.  Nevertheless, the legislature and the Governor enacted only a temporary tax increase.
  • Because the legislature failed to pass even a temporary extension, that tax increase expired on December 31, 2014.
  • Since then, the state has been falling further and further into debt.
  • Unfortunately, the Fiscal Year 2016 budget proposed by Governor Rauner  in early 2015 did not include a restoration of the income tax rates which had expired at the end of 2014.  Thus, the budget the Governor proposed included a deficit of approximately $2 billion.
  • The legislature has done nothing to remedy this situation.  Rather, it passed a spending plan without passing a revenue plan.   To be specific, neither the Illinois Senate, nor the Illinois House has passed legislation restoring the 2014  tax rates or providing for any other increase in state revenue.  The legislature’s budget would result in a $4 billion deficit.
  • However, in the absence of an actual budget, we continue to spend money at a rate roughly comparable to the previous year’s budget which was based upon the now expired tax rates.  This means that every month the state deficit grows by hundreds of millions of dollars.
  • There is certainly waste in the state budget.  However, given the size of the budget deficit, there is no realistic way that we can maintain mental health services and other essential government services such as schools, police, prisons, other health care needs without a tax increase.
  • Every day that we delay means that we will either need a higher tax increase or more cuts in essential services or, more likely, both.

ACTION ITEM:  Please tell the Governor, your state senator and state representative that we need a tax increase NOW!

Budget Stalemate Hurting People with Mental Illnesses, Getting Worse Every Day–Updated 12/30/15

The failure of the the Governor and the Illinois legislature to pass a budget by the June 30th deadline is causing serious harm to people with mental illnesses.  Here are some of the problems:

  • Since the State is not paying community mental health providers, they are:
    • borrowing money, if they are able to do so–of course this money must be repaid with interest
    • laying off staff
    • reducing services
    • creating longer and longer waiting lists for services
  •  Denying or delaying services to people in mental health crises or those who have recently been released from inpatient mental health facilities is resulting in unnecessary hospitalizations and other harms
  • Limiting the availability of affordable housing
  • Department of Human Services funding for psychiatric services in the community has been completely eliminated.  This has created long waiting lists for people who need to see a psychiatrist in order to obtain psychotropic medications or other services.
  • Crisis beds and other services created to serve persons no longer being served by Tinley Park and Singer Mental Health Centers  when these state hospitals were closed.  The communities served by these state facilities (the South and Southwest Suburbs and the South side of Chicago were served by Tinley Park and the entire Northwest portion of Illinois was served by Singer) were promised these services so that the state could comply with facilities closing laws.  Now there is nowhere to go.  Here are some of the details: Handout for Legislators 5 27 15 NCCS funding 4 30 15
  • Community mental health services needed to help efforts–such as Mental Health Courts– designed to divert people with mental illnesses from the criminal justice system have been reduced or eliminated.  This will undermine creative efforts to keep people with mental illnesses out of prisons and jails.

ACTION ITEM:  Please contact your state senator and state representative and the Governor and tell them we need a budget and we need one which provides adequate funding for mental health services.  Such a budget must include a restoration of the 2014 tax rates.

Governor Rauner’s Proposed Budget Dramatically Cuts Mental Health Services

On February 18th, Governor Rauner released his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2016 (the budget year beginning on July 1, 2015).   His proposal contains no new sources of revenue, not even a restoration of the dramatic cut to the income tax rates which went into effect on January 1, 2015.  In order to balance the budget without new revenue, the proposed budget includes dramatic cuts to funding for mental health and related services.

The cuts include:

  • $1.5 billion in cuts to Medicaid including cuts to medications for the treatment of schizophrenia and other serious mental illnesses.  Since Medicaid is the largest single source of funding for mental health services in Illinois, the proposed cut will be devastating to persons with mental illnesses.
  •  $87.8 million in cuts to mental health services funded through the Department of Human Services, including:
    • $27 million cut to psychiatric services in the community
    • $5.5 million cut to state psychiatric hospital services
    • $18.5 million cut to care coordination services
  • $34.6 million cut to alcohol and substance abuse services
  • $14.1 million cut to Supportive Housing Services which will effect 3,525 households
  • $3.1 million cut to the Homeless Youth Program which will end shelter and services for 1,316 youth
  • $1 million cut to the Homeless Prevention Program which will make 955 households homeless.

The Mental Health Summit urges the Illinois legislature to categorically reject these cuts as unnecessary, unwise, and inhumane.  They are unnecessary because increasing revenue will allow Illinois to preserve these safety net programs.   They are unwise because they will result in a preventable and costly increases in emergency room use, hospitalization, loss of employment and, even, for some persons, involvement in the criminal justice system.  They are inhumane because they will cause suffering for many people with mental illnesses and their families and communities.

Mental Health America fact sheet on budget cuts

Chicago Board of Public Health Statement on proposed Medicaid cuts (4/15/15) board of health-medicaid statement

RBC Human Impact factsheet v6

2015-03-11 – IARF Press Statement – Over 51000 to Lose DD and MH Services Under Proposed Budget

Revenue Solution Fact Sheet_2 22 15

Statement from Housing Action Illinois

IARF Analysis of Governor Rauner’s Budget: 2015-02-19 – Snapshot of DD – MH – ASA Budget Request (4)

ONE Northside response to Governor Rauner’s Budget

Thresholds Response to Governor Rauner’s Proposed Budget

Community Renewal Society’s Budget response

Fiscal Policy Center Response

Full text of Governor Rauner’s Budget address

Governors proposal to cut all “non-essential grants

DHS Budget slides

DHFS Budget

2015-03-16 – IARF Written Statement – Senate Appropriations I – DHS Budget

Sheriff Dart on Governor Rauner’s proposed budget

ARC on budget cuts to respite care

seiu statement on the budget

The Summit makes recommendations to Governor-elect Rauner

On December 22nd, the Summit made the following recommendations to Governor-elect Rauner:

Criminal Justice
Both the state and local governments in Illinois are spending tens of millions of dollars on persons with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. The state prisons are dramatically overcrowded and more than 8,000 inmates have serious mental illnesses. Illinois is attempting to settle a class action against the Department of Corrections over its failure to provide minimally adequate mental health services to inmates. Each inmate costs the state over $20,000/year and this cost will go up when the state begins to comply with its legal obligations to these inmates. Fortunately, Illinois’ decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act will permit Illinois to reduce significantly the number of persons with mental illnesses in state prisons (and county jails). Historically, fewer than 10% of the persons entering the criminal justice system have been eligible for Medicaid and few had private insurance. Thus, most inmates with mental illnesses had never received treatment for their illnesses. With Medicaid expansion more than 90% of this population will be eligible for Medicaid and, therefore, will be able to receive treatment for their illnesses. Studies have consistently shown that such treatment will dramatically reduce involvement in the criminal justice system. Illinois must prioritize the enrollment of persons in the criminal justice system in Medicaid and ensure that the appropriate mental health services are made available to this population in a timely fashion. It is particularly important that eligible persons leaving our state prisons are promptly enrolled in Medicaid. Other cost-effective diversion programs include:
• Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training for all law enforcement officers
• Temporary treatment facilities for persons leaving prisons and jails
• Jail diversion programs modeled after the Bexar County (Texas) Center for Health Care Services)

Juvenile Justice
As documented in the recent Chicago Tribune series, Illinois is also spending substantial sums of money on children with mental illnesses in the juvenile justice system, but their illnesses often go untreated. The Summit has many suggestions for diverting children and adolescents out of the juvenile justice system including:
• ending parental custody relinquishment as a condition for receiving services
• full participation in the Federal Early and Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) program
• restoring the Individual Care Grant program administered by the Department of Human Services for children with mental illnesses
• enforcing federal and state mental health insurance parity laws so that private insurance, rather than the state, will pay for mental health services, for minors

Medicaid is the largest single source of funding for mental health services in Illinois (and every other state). However, Medicaid funds are often wasted on expensive and ineffective services. We suggest the following changes:
• take advantage of the Federal Section 1115 waiver program to insure the availability of community services which will prevent the use of more expensive institutional care.
• reduce the state’s excessive reliance on expensive nursing homes, specifically including Specialized Mental Health Rehabilitation Facilities, to house persons with mental illnesses
• expand the use of cost-effective community services including:
• supportive housing
• supported employment
• peer supports services delivered by Certified Recovery Support Specialists
• insure that the mental health services provided under the Medicaid expansion program are fully aligned with the traditional Medicaid program

Social Impact Bonds

Illinois should join government units across the country in taking advantage of “social impact bonds” or “pay for performance” funding mechanisms to create public/private partnerships to improve the delivery of mental health services. The Summit has concrete ideas about how such programs could reduce state spending on persons with mental illnesses, including those in prisons, jails and state hospitals and those being hospitalized at state expense in private hospitals.

Mental Health Insurance Parity
The Federal government has recently published detailed regulations to implement the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act. Illinois also has a state mental parity law. These laws are intended to require private health insurance companies to cover mental illnesses in a manner equal to the coverage of non-psychiatric disorders. Effective enforcement of these parity laws will increase the availability of mental health services which will keep people employed and save Illinois resources. The Illinois Department of Insurance should take the lead in enforcing state and federal parity laws.

Access to Medications
While psychotropic medications can be expensive, there is substantial research showing that restricting access to these medications increases costs because it results in increased hospitalizations and other negative and expensive outcomes. Illinois should removed or reduce burdensome prior authorization requirements for medications in its Medicaid program and work to create standardized prior authorization procedures for private insurance.

Sale of Tinley Park Mental Health Center
Illinois has proposed to sell the land under the now-defunct Tinley Park Mental Health Center to the Village of Tinley Park for a sum that is substantially less than its market value. This matters to mental health advocates because Illinois law requires the proceeds of the sale to be reinvested in mental health services. Given the substantial cuts in state funding for mental health services over the past decade, these funds are greatly needed. The sale should be suspended until a fair appraisal of the value of the land can be made and Illinois should attempt to obtain as much as it can for this property.

Additional Federal Funding for Mental Health Services

The United States Department of Health and Human Services will be awarding planning grants on January 1, 2016 to eight states as a prelude to funding new Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHC). This represents an opportunity to obtain substantial Federal funds to improve Illinois’ community mental health services. Illinois should apply for a CCBHC planning grant.

Here is a link to Governor Rauner’s Transition Team Report

Thinking about the “IMD” exclusion

The introduction in Congress of HR 3717 (often referred to as “the Murphy bill”) has increased the ongoing debate over the wisdom of the so-called “IMD exclusion” in Medicaid funding. Unfortunately, this debate is frequently based upon misunderstandings of the IMD exclusion. This post  is designed to correct these misunderstandings and consider the role of the IMD exclusion in light of the Affordable Care Act.
What is the IMD exclusion?
The IMD exclusion prohibits federal Medicaid benefits from being paid for care for someone between the ages of 22 and 64 in a facility with more than 16 beds that is primarily engaged in providing diagnosis, treatment or care of persons with mental illnesses. This is usually defined as a facility where more than 50% of the residents are there due to mental illnesses. 42 CFR 435.10009
Why was the IMD exclusion enacted?
The IMD exclusion was enacted primarily to relieve the Federal Medicaid program from the obligation of funding state psychiatric hospitals. At the time the IMD exclusion was enacted in 1965, every state was operating one or more psychiatric hospitals and, many states had been doing so for more than a century. No state was operating non-psychiatric hospitals. Thus, the exclusion prevented the Federal government from being burdened with a traditional state obligation.
Does the IMD exclusion discriminate against persons with mental illneses?
No. States can easily obtain Federal Medicaid support for inpatient psychiatric care by:
• Operating their own psychiatric hospitals with 16 or fewer beds
• Operating their own general medical facilities so long as the percentage of those persons being treated for mental illnesses in any of these facilities does not exceed 50%
• Placing Medicaid-eligible persons with mental illnesses in private hospitals or nursing homes so long as the percentage of those persons being treated for mental illnesses in any of these facilities does not exceed 50%. Almost every general hospital that has a psychiatric unit is eligible for Federal Medicaid reimbursement for persons on that unit.
• Placing Medicaid eligible persons with mental illnesses in private psychiatric hospitals or nursing homes so long as those facilities have 16 beds or fewer.
It is true that, if a state decided to operate a general hospital that provided non-psychiatric services, persons receiving care in such a facility would be eligible for Federal Medicaid support while persons in state-operated psychiatric hospitals would not. But since no state-operated non-psychiatric facilities exist, there is no discrimination.
What is practical effect of the IMD exclusion in the wake of the ACA?
1. The IMD exclusion has encouraged states to arrange for the treatment of Medicaid-eligible persons with mental illnesses in settings other than state-operated psychiatric hospitals. If a Medicaid-eligible person receives care on a psychiatric ward of a general hospital, the Federal government will pay for a substantial share of the cost of that care, at least 50%. However, the cost of care in a state psychiatric hospital falls entirely on the state. In those states (currently 28 of the 50) which have chosen to expand their Medicaid program under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) to cover people whose income is above 100% of the poverty level up to 138%, there will be more of an incentive to move persons to private hospitals since the Federal government will cover a subtantially greater share of the cost (100% in the first few years). The ACA also means that in every state there will be fewer people with mental illnesses who are without private health insurance. Persons with private health insurance are not usually served in state psychiatric hospitals.
2. The increased movement of persons from state hospitals to private hospitals, whether those persons are funded by traditional Medicaid, expanded Medicaid or private health insurance, has and will reduce the need for state-operated psychiatric beds. States may respond by closing these beds or using them to meet other needs including inpatient care for undocumented persons (they are not eligible for Medicaid) and for forensic patients (persons found unfit to stand trial or not guilty by reason of insanity or transfered from state prisons). If a state believes that other funding sources, such as Medicaid or private insurance, will not pay for inpatient care for persons whom the state believes need such care or will not pay for care that lasts long enough, the state can also spend its savings on providing care for these people in state-operated facilities or on funding extended care in private facilities.
3. Most states have an inadequate community mental health system. States will probably get the most return on investment by spending savings occasioned by the ACA on expanded community services, particularly such under-funded services as peer support, crisis services, supported housing and supported employment. Funding for community mental health services will be increasing in every state due to the increased number of people who have private insurance under the ACA. Of course, the increase in community services will be greater in those states which have chosen to expand their Medicaid programs. States may also be able to take advantage of expanded community service waivers under Medicaid. Such waivers are not available for persons in state hospitals, but may be available if they reduce the need for inpatient care in private facilities covered by Medicaid. Waivers permit states to offer services not otherwise covered by Medicaid. Many of these services are highly effective and will reduce the need for inpatient care.
4. Since the IMD exclusion affects the balance between state and private psychiatric hopsitals, particularly in light of the ACA, it is important to understand the differences between these facilities:
a. Length of stay. State hospitals tend to keep people longer. That is primarily because, in private hospitals, third-party payers, including Medicaid, use the “medical necessity” standard to control the length of hospital stays. The general absence of third-party payers in state psychiatric hospitals permits longer stays. This is important because eliminating the IMD exclusion would bring Medicaid’s “medical necessity” standards to bear on state hospitals and would tend to reduce or end this difference. States should think carefully about whether these longer stays are beneficial or wasteful.
b. Involuntary treatment. Involuntary treatment is used more frequently in state hospitals. That is because Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance do not cover the costs associated with involuntary commitment proceedings. These costs include transporting the patient to court for commitment hearings and the time that a mental health professional spends preparing for and testifying in such proceedings. State hospitals frequently have courts located on the grounds and mental health professionals who are salaried state employees can more readily include court time in their schedules. Those states which require a court order for involuntary medication or other treatment will have yet additional expenses in private hospitals with no clear funding source. Becuase of these costs, private hospitals sometimes simply turn away person who refuse voluntary treatment when the hospital is unable to arrange transfer to a state facility. A state which reduces the capacity of state-operated hospitals will need to determine how to pay for the cost of involuntary treatment in private facilities for those who need it.
c. Co-occurring medical conditions. State hospitals are less apt to have the capacity to care for non-psychiatric medical conditions, particularly more complex ones. Persons with co-occurring non-psychiatric and psychiatric conditions are often better served in private general hospitals, particularly large medical centers.
d. Discharge linkage and continuity of care. State hospitals typically do a better job at linking persons to community care. This is true largely because: (i) third-party payers do not reimburse private hospitals for the cost of linkage; and, (ii) states sometimes pay community providers to give priority to persons being discharged from state hospitals. However, most states are moving their Medicaid system into various managed care arrangements. Under managed care, there will be greater integration of hospital and community mental health services. Additionally, the Affordable Care Act imposes penalties on hospitals which have high re-admission rates. These penalties may encourage greater attention to discharge planning and continuity of care at private psychiatric hospitals.

BUDGET UPDATE–July 9, 2014

The Illinois legislature could not muster enough votes either to maintain the current tax rates and pass a budget which that revenue would support or pass a budget based upon the dramatic reduction in revenue which will occur on December 31st if the current income tax rates are not extended.  Instead the legislature passed a compromise ” middle of the road” budget which is a temporary fix for our budget situation.  The Governor has signed this budget into law as Public Act 98-0680.  There is generally flat funding for most behavioral health items.  This budget is not really balanced.  The recent decision of the Illinois Supreme Court about health care benefits for government employees strongly suggests that the legislature’s efforts to fix the state pension funding problem will be found unconstitutional.   This will exacerbate the state’s budget problems.   So we can expect to see the fighting continue after the election when the legislature will need to either repeal the tax decrease scheduled to take effect on December 31, 2014 or make substantial cuts to all programs or both.   Mental health advocates will need to continue our efforts all Summer and until the November election  to convince the legislature that we cannot afford the scheduled tax cut if we are going to preserve needed services.


On December 31st, 2014, the current state personal income tax rate will go down from 5% to 3.75% and the corporate rate will go down from 7% to 5.25% unless the Illinois legislature votes to continue the current rates.  These reductions would result in serious cuts to behavioral health services including the following:

  • 140,000 individuals receiving publicly funded mental health services will have reduced access to psychiatry, counseling, ACT, and emergency medications;
  • 35,000 individuals will no longer receive any services;
  • 10,000 people will not receive needed crisis services (resulting in more admissions to the ERs and nursing homes, etc.);
  • 840 beds of the current 3,500 would be reduced for crisis residential treatment, resulting in increased homelessness;
  • 216 individuals would lose rental subsidies for the Permanent Supported Housing program, placing them at risk of losing their housing;
  • Reduction in the Individual Care Grant program, including services serving at least 75 children;
  • Reduction in funding for SMHRF Comparable Services will prevent implementation of a key pilot program;
  • Reduction of services to 880 Williams Class members currently living in the community by the elimination of drop-in centers ACT teams, and other programs.
  • Inability to meet FY15 Consent Decree targets to transition 400 Williams class members and 220 Colbert class members.
  • Inability to meet tenets of these Consent Decrees would result in federal receivership.
  • Reduction of 3,280 civil hospital beds and 320 forensic beds.
  • Reduced staffing by 650 would increase risk of violating CRIPA and other federal laws.

Click here for more details on the budget

The good news is that the Governor has proposed a budget which will continue the current personal and corporate income tax rates beyond December 31st.  However, in order for this budget to become a reality it must be passed by the Illinois House and Senate.  Please contact your state senator and state representative and tell them to vote for a continuation of the current income tax rates.  The legislature is not in session until April 28 so you can call, write or visit your legislators in the home district offices.  Click here to find out the name of your state senator and repreentative and how to contact them.

Democrats and Republicans have competing bills in Congress

Representative Barber has now introduced a competing bill which omits the controversial aspects of HR3717 (the Murphy bill) .  Some Democrats who had supported the Murphy bill have now withdrawn their support.

A hearing was held on HR3717 on April 3, 2014.  Here is link to the testimony.

On December 12, 2013, Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA) introduced the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2013.  This bill (HR 3717)  includes many provisions that have broad support in the mental health community including reauthorization of the Mental Health First Aid Act (S.153/H.R.274), the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act (S.116/H.R.2734,  the Children’s Recovery from Trauma Act (S.380), the Excellence in Mental Health Act (S.264/H.R.1263), the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Act of 2013 (MIOTCRA;S. 162/H.R.401) and the Behavioral Health IT Act (S.1517, S.1685/H.R.2057),.   However, the bill would use Federal funds to encourage states to broaden the use of outpatient commitment.  Outpatient commitment is opposed by many mental health organizations.

Many national organizations have issued statements concerning Representative Murphy’s bill:

Statement of Mental Health America

Statement of the Natiional Coalition for Mental Health Recovery

Statement of the National Disabilities Rights Network

Statement of the American Psychiatric Association

Statement of the National Council 

Statement of the National Alliance on Mental Illness

Statement of Sacred Creations

Statement of Mad in America

Statement of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network

Statement of the Mental Illness Policy organization 

Statement of the Coalition of Citizens with Disabilities of Illinois

APA statement from Jejfrey Lieberman, MD

The Mental Health Summit has not taken a position on this bill.